Cross Canada Report: Nova Scotia’s opera companies adjust

by | Nov 12, 2020 | Featured, News

Please noteInformation in this Nova Scotia report was accurate as of publishing in our Fall 2020 issue released in September 2020.

The small province of Nova Scotia has long had at least three established, active companies to satisfy its opera cravings at any given time. Unfortunately, like everywhere else in the world, COVID-19 put a halt to fully staged live opera in the maritimes. Digitally streamed productions from Metropolitan Opera or from singers’ living rooms have had to suffice. 

Opera Nova Scotia

Although 20/21 was Opera Nova Scotia’s 20th-anniversary season, it had to cancel its spring production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte. They also had to cancel educational study programs related to the work, to be hosted by the University of King’s College in Halifax.  

“It is not justifiable to expose our audience to contagion, even for a Mozart experience. The well-being of our vocal and instrumental performers, student chorus, production team, and community public are of prime concern, to guarantee in future years the presence of live opera in a healthy Halifax,” said Dr. Walter Kemp, ONS Artistic and Administrative Director.

The 2020 Mozart production has been postponed until May 2021, but only if financially feasible with potential to play to a full house.  

ONS’ plans for the immediate future, September-December 2020, are contingent on easing of lockdown restrictions and, of course, the spread of the virus. Kemp hopes to be able to mark the 20th anniversary with a cabaret-style celebration of champagne and operetta performed for a smaller audience.

He is optimistic about plans for a February ‘Opera Valentine’ which could also accommodate social distancing. 

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax, Nova Scotia. Photo: Enrique Hoyos

The pandemic has drawn attention to a need for more community venues in Halifax beyond the Dalhousie University Arts Centre and King’s College. While additional space in the form of Dalhousie Art Centre’s new Recital Hall is expected to be completed by Fall 2021, the danger of relying on such a small pool of venues has been exposed. 

Halifax Summer Opera Festival

Another Nova Scotian opera fixture, the Halifax Summer Opera Festival, had to postpone its entire 2020 season including Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, John Blow’s Venus and Adonis, Weill and Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, plus its art song program.

All of HSOF’s productions demand that its artists travel to Halifax and reside there for several weeks. According to Artistic Director Nina Scott-Stoddart, the company’s Board of Directors continuously reassessed the decision to cancel their 2020 program, until it was clear there was no way to go forward with the season. They hope most of the participating artists will regroup in 2021. 

The company plans to implement one change immediately: minimize necessity for travel by replacing live with ‘distanced’ auditions.

HSOF has no permanent performance venue and, in the spirit of a city-wide festival, has used auditoriums throughout Halifax. In current circumstances, this makes scheduling decisions entirely dependent on the opening and availability of civic spaces. 

Maritime Concert Opera

The province’s third established opera company is Maritime Concert Opera based in the tiny musical town of Lunenburg—population under 2,500. This company has taken opera productions around the province and has included as much local talent as possible, but still faces many of the same problems. The soloists and lead singers are primarily professionals who must travel to, and reside in, Lunenburg. 

Like HSOF, MCO performs in many different venues, but has none of its own. There is a newly reconverted building within the town, aptly named The Lunenburg Opera House, which might feature in MCO’s future performance venue plans, but the future remains unclear. MCO still hopes to produce a show in the spring of 2021.  

Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance

Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance (LAMP) had to cancel a collaboration with Symphony Nova Scotia for May 2020 concert performances of Beethoven’s Fidelio. They hope to produce a Rossini event in 20/21, but plans are to be determined. LAMP’s 2020 Rossini Opera Academy performances of La cenerentola have been postponed to Sept. 2021. That rescheduled, 7th annual Academy will be under the direction of renowned Rossini expert Maestro Gianni Fabbrini, joined by pianist Michele D’Elia of Teatro alla Scala’s Academy of Lyric Opera as well as a singer considered ‘the Cenerentola’ worldwide for more than 20 years—Sonia Ganassi. 

You can find season previews like this one from across Canada in our Fall 2020 issue. To receive more exclusive content, help support our writers and Canadian artists by subscribing here.

Daphna Levit

Daphna Levit was born in Israel, served in the army, and received undergraduate degrees in linguistics and literature from Tel Aviv University. She has contributed numerous articles in both Hebrew and English to various publications such as Ha’aretz and The Other Israel and is coauthor of Israeli Rejectionism: A Hidden Agenda in the Middle East Peace Process. She lives and teaches courses at academic institutions in Nova Scotia.



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